Welcome to the first ever Virtual Co-ed Relief Society/Priesthood Lesson (at MM anyway)! Here’s why you should join the discussion:
- Virtual – you can participate whether or not you actually attended church
- Co-Ed – you can hear perspectives from both men & women
- Spiritual + Intellectual – some would like more intellectual content at church; others would like more spiritual content at MM. It’s like chocolate & peanut butter.
- Non-LDS Perspective – we may hear non-LDS commenter viewpoints (welcome to all!)
- Advance Lesson Prep – those who are teaching RS/PH may find some insights for their lessons.
The materials are taken from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith manual and my own head (no link provided). Today is Lesson 12: Proclaim Glad Tidings to All the World. In keeping with the spirit of the site, I will select passages and questions (and add stuff) that aim to be a little more thought-provoking.
Introduction: Much has been said on this site by commenters about the effectiveness of the missionary program. So, if you were the boss of us all, what would you do to increase the effectiveness of our missionaries and the missionary program?
Then & Now: How does contemporary missionary work contrast with NT and early LDS missionary work?
“By this we learn that it behoved Christ to suffer, and to be crucified, and rise again on the third day, for the express purpose that repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all nations. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call’ [Acts 2:38–39].
“By this we learn that the promise of the Holy Ghost is made unto as many as those to whom the doctrine of repentance was to be preached, which was unto all nations. … Therefore we believe in preaching the doctrine of repentance in all the world, both to old and young, rich and poor, bond and free.” Joseph Smith, 1835.
Here are some of the features of missionary efforts described in NT & the early restored church with a contrast to our current program:
- No purse or scrip (NT & early LDS). Today: missionaries pay a monthly sum that is equal across all regions of the world. Local members are asked to provide support in the form of meals vs. relying upon the kindness of strangers.
- No time limits, well until you get martyred anyway (NT, some early LDS – was very flexible in terms of length of time). Today: 24 months for men, 18 months for women.
- All males must go (NT not specified, early LDS for a time), regardless of age, marital or economic status. Today: Single males strongly encouraged to go; single females optional.
- Teach by the spirit with little or no formal instruction or central leadership/no message control (NT initially – hey, they didn’t even have the NT!, and early LDS – although some missions were with the express purpose to refute anti-Mormon claims). Today: has recently been made much more flexible (down from 6 consecutive discussions, which was down from 52 consecutive weekly discussions).
- No language instruction (NT – some gift of tongues & early LDS – occasional gift of tongues; studied some languages in School of the Prophets). Today: crash course in language; localized MTCs in regions.
- Companionships (NT – mostly for training? & early LDS – often went out in companionships, but didn’t have to be together always). Today: you are never to be separate from your mission companion. Or you burst into flames or one of you goes off after harlots or something.
- No dress code (NT & early LDS – dressed like everyday people). Today: 1950s business dress for men (lava-lavas in Polynesian cultures); women in skirts. Shoes universally worn to a nub, regardless of time period.
- Worthiness standards (NT not specified, early LDS pretty much sent everyone newly baptized male, with obviously mixed results). Today: recently raised the bar on worthiness/preparation standards.
- Conflicts (NT – Paul was chased out of Ephesus for preaching against the silversmiths’ livelihood, early LDS – Parley P. Pratt started his sermon to the Shakers by decrying celibacy and got kicked out). Today – some issues due to tactlessness, lack of cultural awareness, and some due to success and competing preaching.
Can you think of other ways in which the missionary program of today contrasts and compares to the missionary efforts of previous eras in the NT, early restored church, or even BOM?
How are missionaries today tied to missionaries of the past? Has the missionary program improved or deteriorated from these earlier efforts?
Joseph Smith quotes on missionary work:
“We don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and get more. What if all the world should embrace this Gospel? They would then see eye to eye, and the blessings of God would be poured out upon the people, which is the desire of my whole soul.” (1843)
Is this approach emphasized today? How or how not?
“The servants of God will not have gone over the nations of the Gentiles, with a warning voice, until the destroying angel will commence to waste the inhabitants of the earth, and as the prophet hath said, ‘It shall be a vexation to hear the report.’ [See Isaiah 28:19.] I speak thus because I feel for my fellow men; I do it in the name of the Lord, being moved upon by the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I could snatch them from the vortex of misery, into which I behold them plunging themselves, by their sins; that I might be enabled by the warning voice, to be an instrument of bringing them to unfeigned repentance, that they might have faith to stand in the evil day!” (1835)
Early LDS missionaries focused on the imminent second coming. If this approach has changed, how and why? Are missionaries called to warn or to invite or both? How should missionaries manage this seeming dichotomy?
“Prejudice, with its attendant train of evil, is giving way before the force of truth, whose benign rays are penetrating the nations afar off. … The time was, when we were looked upon as deceivers, and that ‘Mormonism’ would soon pass away, come to naught, and be forgotten. But the time has gone by when it is looked upon as a transient matter, or a bubble on the wave, and it is now taking a deep hold in the hearts and affections of all those who are noble-minded enough to lay aside the prejudice of education, and investigate the subject with candor and honesty.” (1841)
The above statement was made in 1841 when there were only a few thousand members. Today there are millions. Do people still feel the church will fade away into obscurity? Why or why not?
What is meant by the “prejudice of education”? Does reason prejudice us against God’s way of learning? If so, how? Does that mean reason must be abandoned in man’s search for God? Why or why not?
“May God enable us to perform our vows and covenants with each other, in all fidelity and righteousness before Him, that our influence may be felt among the nations of the earth, in mighty power, even to rend the kingdoms of darkness asunder, and triumph over priestcraft and spiritual wickedness in high places, and break in pieces all kingdoms that are opposed to the kingdom of Christ, and spread the light and truth of the everlasting Gospel from the rivers to the ends of the earth.” (1836, from meeting of FP and 12)
How can the mission program be made more effective and have more influence for good in the world while fulfilling the goal of spreading the gospel to the world? In what ways is it flawed today? What reforms would improve its effectiveness? Suggested improvements (heard on this very site):
- change the whole church (well, we have been called “DAMU-friendly”)
- teach more history & culture to improve knowledge & respect
- put knowledgeable people in church sites (especially older couples), not just “testifying” missionaries
What are the benefits to the missionary program as it runs today? What are the drawbacks? What other ideas do you have to increase the effectiveness of the missionay program?